Rapid Application Development: Definition, Tools & Model

Instructor: Lucinda Stanley

Lucinda has taught business and information technology courses, has a PhD in Education, and a master’s degree in business education.

In this lesson we will explore the conditions that should be met in order to use rapid application development, as well as some common design models and tools that can be used if those conditions are met.

Getting Your Software to the End User - Quickly

How long does it take to create a software application? If you think of all the elements associated with the software development life cycle (SDLC) - conducting a needs analysis and planning, defining the requirements (what do we want the software to do), developing the software code, testing the software, and then finally deploying it to the end user - this process can take months, if not years from start to finish.

Software Development Life Cycle
Software Development Life Cycle

But what if you don't have months or years? What if you need to get your software out there now while the need for it is hot and there is a market for it?

What you may want to consider is if the product is a good candidate for rapid application development (RAD). In some circumstances, RAD can enable software to be developed in a shorter time frame and sometimes with a higher quality. How can that be possible? And when can it be used? Those are really good questions; let's see if we can answer them.

Deciding When to Use RAD

If you have a software product that can be modularized, meaning the product can be broken into smaller segments or modules, you may be able to use RAD. However, even if you do have a product that can be modularized, you have to have some pretty amazing software designers at your beck and call. So, let's say you have those two things: a modularizable product and awesome software designers. How can you go about the process? There are a number of things you can do either individually, or together, as described below.

  • Conduct focus groups. Get ideas directly from your customer(s). Find out what they really need and what is immediately useful for them.
  • Create prototypes. Make a working model of the software that can be tested (sometimes called Beta testing) by the potential users, who can tell you whether the software works for them, or if there is something else that will make it more useful.
  • Understand that modules that can be interchanged. Sometimes modules that have been created for other software applications can be reused in a new application.
  • Plan, schedule, and communicate. A design team that works well together, communicates clearly, is comfortable with a less formal review process, and can push the product without worrying about improvements until the next version of the application can help to facilitate the RAD process.

If you can accomplish all of these tasks, the software application may well lend itself to a rapid development process. So, what does this process look like? How does it look different from the SDLC?

RAD Design Models

RADs are incremental models where multiple processes are going on at the same time. Basically the process looks like this:

Rapid Application Development Model
RAD Process

Once the needs analysis and requirements are decided upon, the other aspects of software development, like developing the code, creating a prototype, and testing, are done at the same time. For those software applications that are easily broken down into multiple segments or modules, often a team approach is used.

RAD Team Approach
RAD Team Approach

After the initial needs analysis, multiple teams work on different parts of the software application (modules), and the modules are then combined for the finished product.

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